Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

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Parallel Lines – Blondie – Chrysalis Records – 1978

Perhaps one of the most emblematic albums to come out of the musical melting pot of ’70s New York, Blondie’s 1978 breakthrough Parallel Lines is an explosion of influences and styles. Not quite punk, not quite pop, not quite disco — its roster of songs launched Blondie to a new level of success by combining familiar sounds from a variety of genres, mixing the past with the present and looking towards the future, all while still remaining true to their underground roots.

Each member of the band found themselves pushed out of their comfort zone by producer Mike Chapman, and with this album, they hit upon the formula that would bring forth the distinct, iconic Blondie sound for years of records to come.

In this episode, we parse through the various influences and cultural contexts that make up each song, let our nerd flags fly with sonic connections, and continue our musings and discussion of why late ‘70s New York was such fertile ground for music that has endured for decades.

Listen to Parallel Lines: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • If you missed our guest stint on Little Water Radio’s program The Rest is Noise, listen to the archive of it here. We come on around 39 minutes in.
  • We have a thing for bands born out of CBGB. Check out our episodes on Tom Tom Club and Marquee Moon for more on this scene.
  • If you’ve read our FAQs, you’ll know that we’ve repeatedly said that we’re not trying to cover iconic albums because so much has been said about them already. Parallel Lines, however, is different — we think we have more to add to the conversation.
  • Here’s more about Richard Gottehrer, the producer on Blondie’s first two albums.
  • And here’s some more info on Mike Chapman, who produced Parallel Lines.
  • Six of the 12 tracks on the album were released as singles, and most of them had music videos to go with them. Peep our further watching links below to check them all out.
  • Bop over to our Spotify playlist to hear the Nerves’ original version of “Hanging on the Telephone” back-to-back with Blondie’s cover.
  • PSA: Swim team practice will be held in the PROJECTION ROOM ABOVE THE AUDITORIUM.
  • Women 👏 owe  👏  Debbie 👏  Harry  👏  a  👏  whole  👏  heck  👏  of  👏  a lot.  👏
  • Watch this if you want to further tease out the Mike Chapman vs. Clem Burke comparison to Jimmy Iovine vs. Stan Lynch.
  • Wow wow wow “Heart of Glass” is a lot.
    • Again, we always love to talk ‘70s New York. Hit us up if you wanna educate us or share stories.
    • Yes, disco and punk actually evolved out of the same geographic location and similar subcultures. Read this fantastic oral history of disco from Vanity Fair for more.
    • Listen to Blondie covering “I Feel Love,” then head over to our master playlist to hear the early demo “Once I Had a Love.”
    • Oh, and, also, shoutout to Kraftwerk.
  • There are a ton of bands that draw massive influence from Blondie — we’ve got a lot for you to listen to over on Spotify.
  • Blondie disbanded in 1982, but reformed in 1997 and are still around and kicking ass now. We highly recommend their latest album Pollinator for how well it merges the classic Blondie aesthetic with 2017 — something that’s not easy for many legacy bands to do. They avoid both the pitfalls of an old band trying to sound young and relevant and an old band too stuck in their past. Thanks for being Blondie, Blondie.

Favorite track(s): 11:59 and Heart of Glass (Carly) | Sunday Girl and Hanging on the Telephone (Carrie)
Least favorite track: I Know But I Don’t Know (Carly) | 11:59 (Carrie)

Album credits:
Deborah Harry – vocals
Chris Stein – guitar, 12-string guitar, E-bow
Clem Burke – drums
Jimmy Destri – electric keyboards
Nigel Harrison – bass guitar
Frank Infante – guitar

Further Watching:
Inside the Music: Blondie’s New York | 2014
Blondie’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2006
Rock and Roll Punk (Blondie comes in around part 2)| 1995
Nightmoves interview | 1978
“Hanging on the Telephone” music video
“Picture This” music video 
“Heart of Glass” music video

Further Reading:
Blondie’s Parallel Lines (from the 33 ⅓ book series) | 2016
Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk | 2014
Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie

Debbie Harry: June/July Cover Star (in-depth profile of both Debbie and Pollinator) | Nylon (May 2017)
There’s Something About Harry | Harpers Bazaar (March 2017)
Why Did ‘70s Rock Music Hate Disco So Much? | Noisey (February 2016)
Blondie: Success and Sexism | Mojo (March 2014)
35 Years Ago: Blondie Release Parallel Lines | Ultimate Classic Rock (September 2013)
Parallel Lines re-release review | Pitchfork (August 2008)
Parallel Lines review | Rolling Stone (November 1982)
Robert Christgau’s OG review | 1978

Episode 2.2: URBAN VERBS

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URBAN VERBS – Urban Verbs – Warner Brothers – 1980

In our very first oral history episode, we are extremely proud to present the story of Urban Verbs, an integral band in the shaping of Washington D.C.’s burgeoning punk scene in late 1970s and early 1980s.

With the frenetic energy of punk buzzing out of New York and London and the first bursts of post-punk already beginning to enter the airwaves, Urban Verbs stood at a crossroads of sonic and cultural possibilities. They had their own uncharted terrain on which they could create a scene of their own, with their own experimental sound: Their home base, the now-legendary 9:30 Club, spawned a singular new wave movement, one whose influence can still be felt among D.C. bands of today. Their unique meshing of the visual arts crowd with the music world helped to usher in a unification of the D.C. creative community.

Only circumstance separated the Verbs from widespread national acclaim, so with this episode, we offer a candid telling of a story that we feel deserves recognition, a story of music that still sounds as fresh, driving, and progressive today as the day it was recorded. These are the recollections of an extraordinary period in time, told by those who lived it.

Carly and Carrie would like to dedicate this episode to the memory of Robert Goldstein, whose music and essential contributions to the Verbs were a large part of the inspiration for this project.

Listen to Urban Verbs: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Here, shared with the public for the first time, is the detailed, two page letter legendary producer Brian Eno wrote to the Urban Verbs upon hearing them for the first time at CBGB. Delivered to the band the morning after the show and featuring extensive handwritten marginalia, the letter reflects Eno’s enthusiasm for their unique sound, the potential he heard in it, and his eagerness to record them — at his own expense.

In it, Eno is remarkably candid, mulling over ideas that seem dated now (“I’ve often thought of the next generation of machines and computers,” he muses) but were ahead of their time, offering suggestions and praise in equal amount. “That was how far I could go before getting embarrassed,” he concludes. “I realize that this gush might surprise you somewhat, but you came at a good time for me.” 

 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-1 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-2

Click to expand thumbnails
Thank you very much to Rod Frantz for sharing this document with us.

And here are the tracks Eno ended up producing for the Urban Verbs:

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Here’s a publicity still of the Urban Verbs from the late ‘70s that’s cool af.
  • Here’s some extensive info about the ARP Odyssey synthesizer Robin Rose used.
  • While the Verbs were pioneers in the D.C. rock scene, this article from D.C. Whiz highlights some of their contemporaries, including the Slickee Boys, mentioned in this episode.
  • For a taste of what the B-52s were like around the time they played with the Urban Verbs, check out this in-depth look at their early days.
  • Here’s some more info on Mike Thorne’s career.
  • The Washington Post covered the Urban Verbs extensively in their D.C. days. See our further reading links below to read everything from profiles of the band to reviews of their shows.
  • The Urban Verbs briefly reunited in 2008. Here’s an interview with the band from the time, and peep our further watching links below to see a 2008 performance of Terminal Bar.
  • More from Bob Boilen on the Urban Verbs.
  • The last time that all the original members of Urban Verbs publicly performed together was at the Katzen Arts Center in D.C. in May 2016. Check out our further watching links below to watch their performance.
  • See our further reading links below to read and listen to NPR’s poignant remembrance of Robert Goldstein.
  • Members of the Verbs, along with other DC bands and artists who continue their legacy, held a tribute concert for Robert Goldstein (which came to be known as RobertFest) at the new 9:30 Club in January 2017. A video of the entire show can be viewed in our links below.
  • In the mood for another oral history? The Washington Post did one in 2010 on the founding and subsequent life of the 9:30 Club.

Album credits:
Roddy Frantz — Vocals, Written-By — Lyrics
Robert Goldstein — Guitar, Written-By — Music
Robin Rose — Synthesizer
Linda France — Bass and piano
Danny Frankel — Drums and percussion
Mike Thorne — Producer

Further watching:  
RobertFest full concert | January 2017
Urban Verbs live at Katzan Arts Center | May 2016
Terminal Bar | 2008

Further reading: 
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital | 2009

Ambient Genius (Brian Eno profile) | The New Yorker (July 2014)
Remembering Robert Goldstein, NPR’s Music Librarian and Our Friend | NPR (October 2016)
Urban Verbs’ Renewal (on a 1995 reunion at the 9:30 Club) | Washington Post (December 1995)
The Urban Verbs: Future Tense (debut album review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (Pension Building show review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (profile of the band) | Washington Post (February 1979)
Two Rock Groups Play CBGB’s (show review) | The New York Times (November 1978)
The Urban Verbs (Corcoran Gallery show review) | Washington Post (October 1978)

Episode 15: MUSIC

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MUSIC – Carole King – Sony Music – 1971

By the final months of 1971, she was a bona fide superstar. A Los Angeles Times Top 10 Woman of the Year and platinum album seller, her solo singles chronically became hits, and in June of that year, she sold out Carnegie Hall. Her talent, relentless ambition, and steadfast belief in both had taken her to the height of musical recognition without compromising any of her originality — an exemplary feat that was emblematic of the dawning of the freer, more authentic era for women that the 1970s would come to be. She had named herself Carole King at age 14, and now, the woman that Brooklyn’s Carol Klein became was enjoying something else on her terms: her own success.

The album that brought it to her, of course, was Tapestry, but late in 1971, Carole King released her follow-up, Music. Though it received mixed reviews upon its release, Music showcases several of the tricks in Carole’s bag, with influences spanning jazz to R&B to classic pop, arrangements varying from the quiet and simple to the symphonic, and ranging in emotion while never losing her trademark intimacy. This is an album that is more than just a juggernaut’s endearing postscript — it is a declaration of confidence, awareness, and love.

Listen to Music: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hi, yes, we did do Music instead of Tapestry, even though Tapestry is an iconic album with a ton of material circulating about it. See, that’s one reason why we’re not doing it — because so much has already been said. Wanna know more? (Because this whole not-covering-the-album thing is something you’ll see a lot around here.) Head to our FAQ section.
  • Carole King has had a prolific career since she was a teenager. You’ve probably (definitely) heard some of her early songs with Gerry Goffin like “The Loco-Motion,” “Up On The Roof,” and “One Fine Day.” (If you haven’t, then where have you been?)
  • Here’s Robert Hillburn’s Women of the Year profile of Carole King.
  • Check out our further reading section below to read Rolling Stone’s original review of Music. (It’s not very kind, but we’re gonna be talking about it a lot.)
  • “Brother, Brother” is totally a sister/response song to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” Bop over to our master playlist on Spotify to hear them back to back and tell us if you agree or disagree.
  • Carole has credited Toni Stern as a collaborator who helped give her the courage to write on her own after Gerry. Here’s some more about her.
  • Throwback to our Graham Nash episode “It’s Going to Take Some Time” might remind you a bit of the mature breakup themes on Songs For Beginners.
  • Yes, the Carpenters covered “It’s Going to Take Some Time.” Yes, they used a flute. Yes, it was hokey. We have been here with our distaste for flutes before.
  • I never wanted to be Danny Kootch. I always thought it was the stupidest fucking nickname in the world.” — Danny Kortchmar AKA “Kootch”
    • No really, one day we’re going to do an episode all about the Section.
    • It’ll be just like a Jack Stratton Holy Trinities episode. (PS — You should really, really watch this one and also, if you dig funk, you should really, really listen to Vulfpeck.)
    • ICYMI in our Jackson Browne episode, read more about the Section in our further reading links below.
  • Here’s Carole’s OG demo of that Monkees song.
  • If you’re ever feeling too good about yourself, remember that Cameron Crowe was reviewing albums for the San Diego Door when he was 14 years old. (Shoutout to Cameron Crowe; we really like you.) Read his review of Music here.
  • HONESTLY, if you can find a copy of PBS’s American Masters: Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, you will be a VIP friend of the pod. Its existence has all but been erased from the internet.
  • Carrie was wrong; Emmylou Harris’s “Luxury Liner” came out in 1976, not 1975.
  • You know we’re all about that legacy — who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
    • First, Carole King is still very much a presence in music today. In 2015, she received a Kennedy Center honor. In 2016, she headlined the British Summer Time Festival and played Tapestry live in its entirety for the very first time. This year, she released a song to support the Women’s March.
    • Second, some great artists you should check out who carry on her songwriting style and musical influence (we’ll put them all in the playlist): Sara Bareilles, Greta Morgan, Diane Birch, Vanessa Carlton… the list could go on, but here are some A+ starters.
    • Third, she even has a musical about her life (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) that’s been on Broadway for 3+ years now. Talk about legacy.
  • If you wanna talk to us: hit us up over email, like us on Facebook, or even feel free to slide into our DMs on Twitter.
  • Shoutout to our one star reviewer on iTunes, whoever you may be. They don’t want you to win. We love you anyway. 

Album credits:
Carole King – Vocals, piano, electric piano, electric celeste, backing vocals
Ralph Schuckett – organ, electric piano, electric celeste
Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar – acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals
James Taylor – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Charles Larkey – electric and acoustic bass guitar
Joel O’Brien, Russ Kunkel – drums
Ms. Bobbye Hall – congas, bongos, tambourine
Teresa Calderon – congas
Curtis Amy – tenor saxophone, flute
Oscar Brashear – flugelhorn
William Green – woodwind, flute, saxophone
William Collette – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Ernest Watts – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Plas Johnson – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Mike Altschul – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Abigale Haness – backing vocals
Merry Clayton – backing vocals

Favorite track(s): Sweet Seasons and Music (Carly) | Sweet Seasons and Brighter (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Surely (Carly) | Surely (Carrie)

Further watching: 
Carole King’s Kennedy Center Honors induction | 2015
Carole King: “I never thought about gender” (MSNBC intervew) | 2015 
A Conversation With Carole King
(book discussion at JFK Library) | 2012
Hotel California: LA From the Byrds to the Eagles | 2007

Further reading:
A Natural Woman: A Memoir | 2012
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — And the Journey of a Generation | 2008 (side note — this is a huge favorite of both Carrie and Carly)

An Oral History of Laurel Canyon, the ’60s and ’70s Music Mecca | Vanity Fair (March 2015)
The Section: Knights of Soft Rock | Rolling Stone (April 2013)
Music review | Rolling Stone (January 1972)

Episode 13: NIGHTCLUBBING

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NIGHTCLUBBING – Grace Jones – Island Records – 1981

Music. Fashion. Art. Icon. Attempting to mix these to create an internationally acclaimed persona would be a daunting task for anyone with less magnetism than Grace Jones, who succeeded so overwhelmingly at becoming a cross-genre “It Girl” that she forged a path for future generations of singular artists to follow.

Already a well-known model and disco queen, Grace Jones began recording music in the late 1970s. The records did modestly well, but in 1979, Island Records founder and producer Chris Blackwell began working with her on a new musical aesthetic, combining funk, disco, reggae, and new wave styles to create something new — and uniquely Grace Jones. With the talents of Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Wally Badarou, Mikey Chung, Uziah Thompson, and other musicians who comprised the Compass Point All-Stars, the sessions that became Nightclubbing would go on to influence music through each subsequent decade.

As we seek to bridge the gap between the generations, there are few better examples of lasting musical, sartorial, and artistic inspiration than Grace Jones. In today’s episode on her 1981 album Nightclubbing, we explore the effervescent enigma of a woman who left her Jamaican home to travel the world, only to return to the Caribbean to create the music that would become the focal point of her legacy. We dive deep into the relationships between music and art, between the artist and the image, and between icon and legacy. 

Listen to Nightclubbing: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We’ve mentioned this before, but once again, Chris Blackwell is a BAMF.
  • As is Alex Sadkin.
  • Revisit our episode on Betty Davis’s They Say I’m Different and let us know if you see any similarities between Betty and Grace.
  • TURN UP FOR COMPASS POINT 👏 👏 👏
    • Here’s a rad podcast we literally just found that serves as a mini audio-documentary on the studio and some of the cool people who passed through and the records they made.
    • ALSO, TURN UP FOR THE COMPASS POINT ALL-STARS 👏 👏 👏
    • Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Wally Badarou, Mikey Chung, Barry Reynolds, and Uziah “Sticky” Thompson are all killer musicians on their own, but the sum = magic
    • Peep our further reading for more on them.
  • Let’s talk about this album cover!
    • First and foremost: Grace Jones is the OG baddie, textbook unfuckwithable.
    • Especially, let’s talk about John Paul Goude. Here’s one article about their working relationship, but check out our further reading for more.
  • Here’s that “I came to slay” Grace Jones-Pee Wee’s Christmas Special appearance we were talking about. Childhood memories are crazy.
  • This album is full of cover songs, so check out our master playlist on Spotify for all the side by side comparisons.
  • Here’s that incredibly in-depth lecture with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth at Red Bull Music Academy. The link will take you right to the part where they discuss Compass Point and the creative community there, but we highly recommend watching all of it. It’s a good one.
  • Check out the further reading links below for a piece about Grace Jones’s androgynous impact on fashion and music that’s worth reading, if you’re interested.
  • Turn up for Fonce Mizell.  
  • Here’s some science stuff about how Compass Point’s engineers EQ’d the bass and the drums the way they did that creates that cool, loud-but-open sound.
  • Hey, if anyone knows a physicist who can make us a time machine, hit us up.
  • If you want to read Grace’s ironically titled memoir, follow the link in our further reading section below.
  • Here are the translated lyrics to “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango),” if you’d like a more thorough explanation than Carrie’s subpar French can offer. (She tried. Also, if anyone wants to tutor her, she’s willing to re-learn.)
  • Visuals are a huge part of this album — see our further watching section below for some great links.
  • Here’s more info about “Demolition Man” so you can learn what exactly Sting was talking about when he wrote it.
  • “I’ve Done It Again” is probably about an LSD trip, so, there’s that.
  • Grace Jones has an enormous legacy. Here’s a short list of information:
    • Grace Jones was and is a huge gay icon, and this album has been noted for its gay following.
    • Artists who have Grace to thank for paving the way for connecting music, fashion, and art: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Madonna, Janelle Monae… the list goes on and on.
    • Grace’s influence on fashion has also been vast and long-lasting.
  • Finally, worth repeating here, the final paragraph of Grace’s memoir: “If people complain that I am not doing enough of my old material, not performing all the hits, I will stand in front of them, a formlessness that engulfs all form. I will put on another hat, crack my whip, scatter fireflies, fix them with a five-thousand-year-old stare, fit to fight to the bitter end, becoming a ghost with the passing of time. I will be ready for the afterlife, for my bones to be buried in the mountains of Jamaica, or the canals of Venice, or the dark side of the moon, or under the ground in the cities I’ve lived in and loved. And I will say: Do you want to move forward with me, or not? Do you want to know where I am going next? It’s time for something else to happen.

Favorite track(s): Feel Up and Pull Up To The Bumper (Carly) | Pull Up To The Bumper and Feel Up (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Art Groupie (Carly) | I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (Carrie)

Album credits:
Wally Badarou – keyboards
Monte Browne – rhythm guitar
Mikey Chung – guitar
Masai Delon – vocals
Tyrone Downie – keyboards, vocals
Sly Dunbar – drums, syndrums
Jack Emblow – accordion
Grace Jones – vocals, backing vocals
Barry Reynolds – guitar
Jess Roden – vocals
Robbie Shakespeare – bass
Mel Speller – percussion, vocals
Uziah Thompson – percussion
Chris Blackwell, Alex Sadkin – production

Further Watching: 
Grace Jones: One Man Show | 1982
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (trailer) | Forthcoming documentary

Further Reading:
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs | Jones’s irony, please memoir (2015)
Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette (re-issue review) | Pitchfork (June 2016)
Welcome to Planet Grace Jones | Paper Magazine (October 2015) 
Grace Jones Explores Androgyny in a New Memoir | Vogue (September 2015)
As Much As I Can, As Black As I Am: The Queer History of Grace Jones | Pitchfork (August 2015)
I’ve Seen That Face Before: Looking back on Grace Jones’s iconic Nightclubbing with the people who made it happen | Fact Magazine (May 2014) 
Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (deluxe re-issue review) | Pitchfork (May 2014)
Grace Jones pulls up to the bumper | The Guardian (June 2011)
Chris Blackwell | Interview Magazine (March 2009)
Grace Jones by Jean Paul Goude | V Magazine (February 2009) 

Episode 12: RUNNING ON EMPTY

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RUNNING ON EMPTY – Jackson Browne – Asylum Records – 1977

Running on Empty was an album that wasn’t supposed to work. Ten new cuts, all recorded live, in various parts of the country, over the course of two months? To his label, this sounded like pure folly, but Jackson Browne knew this was not just a way to fill time between studio albums; it was to be his labor of love.

Since becoming a recording artist at the age of 18, Browne had experienced life both as Greenwich Village bohemian in the ‘60s with the likes of the Velvet Underground, and as an essential contributor to the emerging Southern California rock sound in the early ‘70s. By 1977, he was looking for something new to try, something he hadn’t yet done — so in August of that year, he took his favorite sessions players on the road and hit “record.”

The collection of recordings that became Running On Empty would be Jackson Browne’s greatest commercial success, going platinum within months of its release. Today, it remains a strikingly fresh portrait of the realities of touring life, and whether referencing the road to the next gig or the road to the next phase of life, it’s the album’s universal displays of humanity that keeps the songs in your head long after the needle hits the runout grooves.

Listen to Running on Empty: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

    • Heyyyyy, here we are with another album from 1977 — you might notice its stark difference from our previous ‘77 episode on Marquee Moon.
      • The amount of iconic outputs from multiple musical genres in the ‘70s, but particularly 1977, never ceases to amaze us. Best year in pop culture. Fight us on this.
      • You can break down the differences and the reasons why they resonated with particular audiences in a million different ways, but at its most broad, let’s just say that Marquee Moon very much exemplified the East Coast/New York punk aesthetic, while Running On Empty can be held up as an example of the West Coast/Laurel Canyon/Cal Rock soft scene.
    • Peep our further reading section to read that really well-written original review of Running on Empty from Rolling Stone in 1978 we talked about.
    • Running on Empty was initially just a way to buy time to conceive new material for another traditional LP, but it became a way to break the repetitive record-making pattern success brings. JB has said: “You go, ‘OK, great, let’s try to do something more like that.’ But that’s not what you were doing when you did it in the first place. You were just doing what you wanted to do next.”
    • Here’s that gorgeous Cameron Crowe essay from the 2005 re-issue that Carrie read an excerpt from. Read. Feel the chills. He’s the best.
    • Quick background info about the session players on this album:
      • The Section (Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, Craig Doerge, Leland Sklar, and Russ Kunkel) were Asylum’s de facto house band and have played on a slew of ‘70s soft rock albums for everyone from Carole King to Linda Ronstadt to Warren Zevon. There’s a great article about them in our further reading section.
      • David Lindley and Jackson Browne have been long, long, longtime collaborators. You can read more about him in the links below, too.
    • Our bad. The author of that rad review comparing circa-1977 culture to “feeling like a trashed Holiday Inn room” was actually RJ Smith for Blender Magazine in a review of the 2005 reissue, not, as we cited in the pod, Robert Christgau.
      • Unfortunately, we can’t seem to find a working link for the full review — not even using Internet Archive’s Wayback machine — because Blender folded in 2009 and, apparently, took its archive with it.
    • Interested in the Nick Drake comparison “The Road” brings up? Follow us on Spotify, where we will lay it all out for you.
    • Sorry, parents. We couldn’t be a credible podcast if we didn’t bring up the “huh? really?” and not-so-PG-13 meaning behind “Rosie.” It’s not an internet theory we’re indulging in — it’s JB’s own words.
    • David Lindley is the real MVP on “You Love the Thunder,” bringing that gee-tar rock and roll edge to Jackson Browne’s soft piano rock.
    • @ Haim: Please cover “You Love the Thunder.” Thanks, bye.
    • Alright, buckle up. “Cocaine” has a LONG history.
    • If you have Running on Empty on vinyl, flip it over for some great Easter eggs in the track-by-track notes. Pro-tip: always read the liner notes.
    • If “The Load Out” doesn’t give you some feels, there’s a high possibility that you have an empty cavity in your chest where your heart is supposed to be.
      • Shoutout to roadies: we know you, we see you, we love you, we appreciate everything you do. Once again — bands are a sum of their parts, and that continues after the music is recorded and the performance begins.
      • Shoutout to Roadies, our beloved, now-canceled Cameron Crowe series. It wasn’t perfect, but it was earnest, and it had bucketloads of heart. Give it a watch if you haven’t seen it, and maybe give it a second watch (or even a second chance) if you already have.
    • “Stay” makes us the human version of the heart-eyes emoji, just so you know.
    • Jackson Browne’s — and this album’s — legacy is long and ongoing.
      • Running On Empty, initially thought to be a crazy idea, ended up being his best-selling album and is on too many lists to count of the best live albums, best albums of the ‘70s, etc.
      • Some current artists who have Jackson Browne’s fingerprints all over them: Dawes, Wilco, Jim James, Jenny Lewis, Tristen… the list goes on and on.
    • Anyway, we love you JB

Favorite track(s): The Load Out (Carly) | Running on Empty and Stay (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rosie (Carly) | Love Needs a Heart (Carrie)

Album credits:
Jackson Browne – guitar, piano, vocals
Rosemary Butler – background vocals, co-lead vocal on “Stay”
Craig Doerge – piano, keyboards
Doug Haywood – background vocals
Danny Kortchmar – lead guitar, harmony vocals (on “Shaky Town”)
Russ Kunkel – drums, snare drum, cardboard box, hi hat
David Lindley – lap steel guitar, fiddle, co-lead vocal on “Stay”
Leland Sklar – bass
Joel Bernstein – background vocals (on “Rosie”) & tour photographer

Further watching:
“One time I sued John McCain” interview segment | 2014
Jackson Browne’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2004
“Running on Empty” (2004 induction ceremony) | 2004

Further reading: 
Session legend/producer Russ Kunkel on 13 career-defining records | Music Radar (April 2014)
The Section: Knights of Soft Rock | Rolling Stone (April 2013)
Behind the Song: Jackson Browne, “Running on Empty” |American Songwriter (December 2012)
Jackson Browne on Meeting David Lindley for the First Time | Fretboard Journal (March 2009)
Jackson Browne: The Rolling Stone Interview | Rolling Stone (August 1980)
Running on Empty (album review) | Rolling Stone (March 1978)

Episode 11: I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU

al-green-love

I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU – Al Green – Hi Records – 1972

Al Green’s 1972 album I’m Still In Love With You is a personal one: an album for smooth Saturday nights and sweet Sunday mornings, for both weddings and double digit anniversaries. It recalls time spent with family, friends, and lovers, and inspires memories to be made in the future. It’s an album made for lasting connections, and is undoubtedly one that is best enjoyed when shared.

In this episode, we examine the foundation of this iconic record and explore the greater musical landscape from which it was born. We discuss the one-of-a-kind house band that gave the album its distinct sound, the Southern stronghold that informed the album’s character, and the producer who oversaw it all, mixing all the elements together to create what is arguably one the greatest American soul records of the 20th century. An album is only as good as the sum of its parts, and here, we examine how I’m Still In Love With You remains an upstanding example.

Listen to I’m Still In Love With You: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Here’s a brief history of Memphis soul and Hi Records’ and Stax’s places within it.
  • Here’s a simple, science-y explanation for why sound quality on vinyl can degrade the closer you get to the center of the album — hence, why Carrie assumes making a full, deep song like “I’m Still In Love With You” the very first track was more of a quality control choice than a creative one.
  • The Al Green drum sounds are SO. GOOD. You can thank Al Jackson, Jr. and Howard Grimes for that.
  • Listen to Chance the Rapper’s “Give and Take” in our master playlist on Spotify.
  • We both kind of, sort of think the second side of this album is weak. Good and enjoyable, but it all starts to run together. Tell us if you disagree.
  • Al Green’s life has been interesting since the release of I’m Still In Love With You.
    • Here’s a brief explainer on that girlfriend-burn altercation thing, which was insane.
    • Green went back to gospel music not long after this and is now an ordained reverend who primarily releases gospel music.
  • Just a few artists Green has influenced (and whose music you can find in our playlist): Prince, Sade, James Blake, John Legend, Leon Bridges, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake… the list goes on and on and on.
  • Any questions? We might have answers over on our ever-evolving FAQ page.
  • Come say hi! Follow us on Facebook, @ us on Twitter, or shoot us an email. We love new friends!

Favorite track: Love and Happiness (Carly) | Love and Happiness (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): For The Good Times (Carly) | For The Good Times and One of These Good Old Days (Carrie) 

Album credits:

  • Al Green — lead vocals
  • Howard Grimes — drums, rhythm section
  • Al Jackson, Jr — drums
  • Ali Muhammed Jackson — drums
  • Charles Hodges — drums, organ, piano
  • Leroy Hodges — bass
  • Mabon “Teenie” Hodges — guitar
  • Wayne Jackson — horn section, trumpet
  • Andrew Love — tenor horn, tenor saxophone
  • Ed Hogan — tenor horn, tenor saxophone
  • Jack Hale, Sr. — horn section, trombone
  • James Mitchell — string and horn arrangements, tenor horn, baritone saxophone
  • Donna Rhodes — background vocals
  • Sandra Rhodes — background vocals
  • Sandra Chalmers — background vocals
  • Charles Chalmers — arranger, horn arrangements, string arrangements, background vocals
  • Larry Walsh — mastering
  • Pam Brady — assistant
  • Pete Welding — assistant
  • Robert Gordon — liner notes
  • Tom Cartwright — project director
  • Willie Mitchell — engineer, producer

Further watching:
Al Green’s Kennedy Center Honors induction | 2014  
Take Me To The River (documentary about Memphis music and bridging the generation gap) | 2014 | Full Documentary (Netflix) • Watch the trailer   
Al Green live concert (source unknown) | 1974
Willie Mitchell on Al Green and Hi Studio | Date unknown
Down To Earth (short doc on Memphis soul) | 2009 

Further reading: 
R&B Gold: Leroy Hodges Goes Hi | Bassplayer (June 2017)
Al Green, the soul legend and Kennedy Center honoree, is still tired of being alone | The Washington Post (December 2014)
100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Al Green | Rolling Stone (December 2010)
Let’s Stay Together/I’m Still In Love With You/Greatest Hits reissue review | Pitchfork (April 2009)
Memphis Magic: The Al Green Sound | Rolling Stone (October 1973)
I’m Still In Love With You review | Rolling Stone (November 1972)
Hi Records’ history | Hi Records official site (date unknown but hella old school and accessed through WayBack Archives because this page doesn’t *actually* exist anymore)

Episode 10: TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS

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TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Shelter Records – 1976

Before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, classic American rock icons, they were just five kids from Gainesville, Florida who had driven cross country to Los Angeles with $200 and hopes of landing a record deal for their southern rock group Mudcrutch.

Their ascent would be a slow one; the group signed with Shelter Records in 1974 and released a single, only to be dropped from the label. The band broke up. The band got back together and found themselves with a new opportunity to release an album — this time with a better name: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Released in 1976, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut is an amalgamation of styles and influences. It travels from classic blues to swampy country to classic ‘50s rock in songs that are abruptly short and full of anxious, pulsing rhythms that weren’t too deviant from the emerging punk scene. It’s no wonder people didn’t know what to do with them or how to classify them when the album was released.

Though the album contains songs that are now staples of American pop culture, engrained in our collective consciousness — songs like “American Girl” and “Breakdown” — it would be a few years before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cemented their status as household name rock stars — but it’s a status they’ve held onto.

In this episode, we discuss the variety of musical influences on early Heartbreakers work, dive into Tom Petty’s sparse songwriting style, and talk about why Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ enduring, four decade long careers truly inspire us.

Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We love almost anything and everything Tom Petty (with and without the Heartbreakers) has released, but we’re covering the Heartbreakers’ debut, rather an album as iconic as Damn the Torpedoes, because we want to have conversations about albums without just rehashing what everyone else has already said. Check out our FAQ page for more on our philosophy.
  • Peep our further watching and further reading links below for two tomes on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that we cannot endorse more emphatically.
    • Petty is Warren Zanes’ incredibly in-depth, intimate, and breathtaking biography of Tom Petty that will probably make you love Tom Petty more than you thought you could.
    • Runnin’ Down a Dream is Peter Bogdanovich’s epic, 4-hour long documentary of your dreams. It’s enthralling, candid, and thorough — so worth a binge session.
  • It all starts with Mudcrutch.
    • Listen to some of their original demos here or here.
    • Mudcrutch got back together in 2007 and have released two albums since. Listen to them here.
  • TBH, we don’t blame the good people of 1976 for thinking Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were punk. It really doesn’t help that there was already a punk band — a staple at CBGB — who were also called the Heartbreakers…
  • We’re not going to get too too deep on lyrical analysis — Tom Petty’s songwriting is often sparse and without a lot of intentional metaphors to unpack; he’d probably roll his eyes and think we were really digging for bullshit if we went that route.
  • “Breakdown” is a fantastic combination of old and new. Seriously.
    • Listen to “Breakdown.” Then listen to Booker T. and the M.G’s “Green Onions.” Note the similarities.
    • Listen to “Breakdown.” Then listen to Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.” Boom.
    • Listen to a live version of “Breakdown” where they weave the aforementioned classic into their own song.
    • All that seem like a lot? Follow us on Spotify to listen to all the great songs we just mentioned (and more to come!) in order of discussion for your listening-and-nerding pleasure.
      • Except for Suzi Quatro’s cover. That one you can watch here.
  • We love all the Heartbreakers, but honestly, people don’t talk enough about how MVP Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench are.
  • All roads go back to Gainesville. (Watch this. Trust us on this one.)
  • 500% here for this video of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing “Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” on Top of the Pops.
  • Want to talk about the symbiotic relationship and pop culture exchange between Britain and America in the mid-to-late 20th century? Talk to us.
  • “Strangered in the Night” could totally be a sister song to “Two Gunslingers.” If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know how much we love sister songs.
  • We went down a musical rabbit hole again, which is fun.
    • Listen to Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” Then listen to “Fooled Again.”
    • Listen to “Fooled Again.” Then listen to Sheryl Crowe’s “My Favorite Mistake.”
    • Did your brain melt a little bit?
  • Listen, “American Girl” is a bop and we don’t have time for any haters.
    • Speaking of the Byrds… Roger McGuinn actually ended up covering “American Girl” in 1977. (It’s in our master playlist, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.)
    • Slow this song down and you’ve got a haunting (but good) ballad.
    • Seriously. Don’t be that person who hates “American Girl” just because it’s popular. Just don’t.
    • Also, don’t be that person who wears the band tee-shirt without knowing anything about the band. Follow this trusty rule: Can you name two non-singles and the bassist? Then you can wear the band tee.
  • We love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for myriad reasons. Just let us gush for a minute.
    • Okay, just a few: their never-ending hustle, their supreme musicianship, the fact that they’re just good human beans who got into music — and continue to make music — for all the right reasons, their humility, and total lack of egos.
  • If you missed the last (and only, so far!) Mudcrutch tour, we are truly sorry. (Carly feels your FOMO). If you did, and you’d like to talk about how magical it was with Carrie, hit us up.
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are currently on a North American tour to commemorate their 40th anniversary.
    • No, it’s not a greatest hits tour; it’s full of deep cuts to be stoked about.
    • If you can go: GO. (And say hi to Carrie if you see her at Newark and/or Forest Hills — yes, she knows she has a problem.)
    • If you can’t go: Hit up this awesome live recording of their 30th anniversary tour.
  • Again, come say hi on Facebook, Twitter, or email. We always love making pod friends.

Favorite track(s): Breakdown (Carly) | American Girl, Luna (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Luna (Carly) | Mystery Man (Carrie)

Album credits:
Tom Petty – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Mike Campbell – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Benmont Tench – piano, hammond organ, keyboards
Ron Blair – bass guitar on tracks 1–2, 4–5, 7–10, cello
Stan Lynch – drums on tracks 1–2, 4–10, keyboards

Jeff Jourard – electric guitar on tracks 2, 7
Donald “Duck” Dunn – bass guitar on track 3
Emory Gordy – bass guitar on track 6
Randall Marsh – drums on track 3
Jim Gordon – drums on track 6
Noah Shark – maracas, tambourine, sleigh bells
Charlie Souza – saxophone on track 3
Phil Seymour – backing vocals
Dwight Twilley – backing vocals

Further watching:
Runnin’ Down a Dream | 2007

Tom Petty MusiCares Speech: Rock & Roll Empowers America’s Youth | 2017
Tom Petty Q on CBC interview | 2014
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech | 2002

Further reading:
Petty (biography) | 2015
Conversations With Tom Petty (interview compilation) | 2005

Benmont Tench: The 40th Anniversary Interview | Keyboard Mag (March 2017)
40 Years Ago: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Release Their Debut Album | Ultimate Classic Rock (November 2016)
Tom Petty On Cheap Speakers And George Harrison | NPR (August 2014)
Tom Petty: Rolling Stones Were ‘My Punk Music’ | Rolling Stone (July 2014)
Tom Petty Knows ‘How It Feels’ | NPR (July 2006)
Mike Campbell Is More Than Just the Guitarist For Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | The Georgia Straight (August 1999)

Episode 9: MARQUEE MOON

marqueemoon

MARQUEE MOON – Television – Elektra Records – 1977

On March 31, 1974, a young band called Television played their first gig at recently-opened Bowery dive CBGB. Not long before, they had helped Hilly Kristal put the CBGB stage together; now, they were performing in the club that they would help to immortalize. Television, comprised of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell (replaced by Fred Smith in 1975), and Billy Ficca, soon became the de facto house band at CBGB, appearing regularly and becoming a staple of the growing scene that would come to include the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and Patti Smith, to name a few.

With their popularity growing, the logical next step would have been to record an album, but Television bided their time. They chose to hone their sound, to develop and grow as a band, so by the time they were signed to Elektra Records in 1976, they were more than ready to begin work on what would become the seminal Marquee Moon. Released in early 1977, the album is regarded as one of the greatest of the punk era, containing songs that continue to be referenced today in covers and samples.

We chose this album as the first to be covered from our show’s namesake year because of its grit, its timeliness and timelessness, and its particular way of getting under your skin and making you feel more electrically charged than you were when you began the album. In this episode, we explore how Television’s and CBGB’s beginnings are inextricably linked, dive into Marquee Moon’s darkness and dreaminess, and outline the continuation of the band’s sound, proving that their legacy still thrives today.

Listen to Marquee Moon: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(and hey, while you’re at it, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be pod friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • 1977 was one of the greatest years of our lives and we weren’t even born yet.
    • Marquee Moon and Rumours were released in the same week. Like. The year was stacked, you guys.
  • RIP CBGB. We didn’t know you personally, but we’ve consumed enough (too much) secondhand information to miss you.
    • An anecdote about how long we’ve been ~like this~: when CBGB was closing, Carrie begged her parents to take her to one of the final concerts. Unsurprisingly, they were like “You are 15 years old. No.” Carly, also 15 at the time, cried and moaned “Nooo, I’m never going to get to go to CBGB!!!!” These are very true stories. You can ask our parents.
    • We do not speak of or even look at the men’s designer fashion store (or even use its name) that’s in CB’s place now. It’s offensive.
    • See our further watching section below to feast on some great docs about Hilly Kristal and CBGB. Just don’t watch the CBGB movie. It’s… not good.
    • Our further reading section is also stacked, by the way.
  • You can listen to Neon Boys’ early demos here for a taste of what Television would become.
  • You can listen to the Brian Eno demos here to understand just how developed their final recorded music was.
  • Marquee Moon was a commercial flop in the U.S., but it was a moderate hit in the U.K., and it ended up on countless year-end best-of reviews (not to mention more 10, 50, and 100 Best of All Time lists).
  • 20th Century Women gets early punk so right, but this quote is particularly spot on: “It’s like they’ve got this feeling, and they don’t have any skill, and they don’t want skill, because it’s really interesting what happens when your passion is bigger than the tools you have to deal with it. It creates this energy that’s raw. Isn’t it great?”
    • What’s so fascinating about Television is that they were punks who had both — talent and passion — and were still able to exude raw energy.
  • We’ve discussed this before, but we love how diverse the CBGB microcosm was. Talk to us about it. We weren’t alive to witness it ourselves.
  • This episode goes out to Karin Berg and many, many other women whose histories have been buried. We’re doing our best to make sure their contributions aren’t forgotten.
  • Apparently “Venus” is about LSD? Or falling in love? Or both? Maybe don’t ask Tom Verlaine, because he’s actually said he doesn’t always understand what he’s writing.
  • Shoutout to basslines you can groove to. We love ‘em.
  • Okay, but “Friction” totally sounds like it could be a Zeppelin song, despite sounding authentically Television at the same time. This just shows how complex their sound could be and how many influences Television pulled in.
    • See our further reading section below to check out the NME review of Marquee Moon and an insanely in-depth interview with Richard Lloyd that covers all the bases. Click on that link. Actually read it. It’s good. Seriously.
    • Lawrence Welk? Really? Really.
  • Fasten your seatbelts, grab your pool floaties, do whatever you gotta do to roll safe. We’re about to tackle “Marquee Moon.”
    • What. A. Side. One. Closer. Honestly. “Stairway to Heaven” is possibly the only song that can come close to comparing.
    • “Marquee Moon” has several runtimes: 9:58 on the original vinyl pressing, 10:38 on subsequent rereleases, and 14 minutes or longer live. As much as we lust after having an OG copy of an album, we gotta say: those extra 40 seconds are so necessary.
    • Where were you when you first heard “Marquee Moon?”
    • No, really, someone wrote an opinion piece arguing that “Marquee Moon” is the best after party song ever.
    • Ranking it eighth in their flawed — we’ve mentioned our disdain for this list before (love you, Pitchfork, but cannot with this), but if you want to talk about it, by all means, contact us — list of the 200 best songs of the ‘70s, Pitchfork got something so, so right, describing “Marquee Moon” as: “punk’s contrarian think piece; a 10 minute odyssey for the dreamers and Deadheads inside CBGB.”
    • There is so. much. imagery. in this song. We would be here for hours if we went through it line by line, but here are the lyrics if you want to give it a stab.
    • RihannaMagic.gif = how it feels when “Marquee Moon” hits 9:15.
  • Yes, that’s “Elevation” you hear sampled in “Lovefool.”
    • Appropriation is the sincerest form of robbery, pass it on.
  • Television’s legacy, though small in recorded output, is vast in influence, from playing an integral role in the incubator community of CBGB to influencing the sound of countless bands to follow them, from Pearl Jam to R.E.M. to the Strokes.
  • Television still plays live dates together, although with guitarist Jimmy Rip in Richard Lloyd’s place.
    • Television is hitting the festival circuit this summer, if you’re interested.
    • Richard Lloyd is performing solo these days, including a set on June 3 in New York at the Bowery Electric. You know we’ll be there, so if you’re in the area, check it out (and come say hi).
  • As always, say hello on Facebook, Twitter, or email. We’ve had some wonderful conversations and made some great friends of the pod so far, and the more, the merrier.

Favorite track(s): Marquee Moon and Friction (Carly) | Marquee Moon and See No Evil (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Torn Curtain (Carly) | Torn Curtain (Carrie)

Album credits:
Billy Ficca – drums
Richard Lloyd – guitar (solo on tracks 1, 4, 5, and 6), vocals
Fred Smith – bass guitar, vocals
Tom Verlaine – guitar (solo on tracks 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8), keyboards, lead vocals, production

Further watching:
Richard Lloyd interview | 2013
Punk Revolution NYC (Television comes in around part 4, but all parts are enthralling) | 2011
Rock and Roll Punk | 1995
Tom Verlaine interview | 1992
Hilly Kristal interview (Warning: you will get feels) | 1990
The Blank Generation | April 1976

Further Reading:
Television’s Punk Epic “Marquee Moon,” 40 Years Later | Pitchfork (February 2017)
How Television Made Marquee Moon, the Best Punk Guitar Album Ever | The Observer (February 2017)
1976-1978: CBGB’s House Photographer | Mashable (September 2014)
Friction: The Making of Marquee Moon (aka the brilliant, super long Richard Lloyd interview) | Uncut Magazine (March 2012)
Television’s Marquee Moon (from the 33 1/3 book series) | 2011
The Rise of New York’s ’70s Rock Scene | Vanity Fair (November 2002)
Marquee Moon review | NME (February 1977)
Everything is Combustible (Richard Lloyd’s forthcoming memoir) | October 2017

Episode 8: SONGS FOR BEGINNERS

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SONGS FOR BEGINNERS – Graham Nash – Atlantic Records – 1971

The year is 1970. America is in the midst of political turmoil: the Vietnam War faces extensive grassroots backlash, four students are killed at Kent State University in Ohio, and women strike for equality in New York. The music world is not without its share of anguish: the Beatles announce their breakup, American Top 40 is about to make scoring a hit record even more important to artists, and both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdose and die within weeks of each other. Graham Nash is dealing with his own personal unrest. Fresh off of two breakups, romantically with Joni Mitchell and professionally with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and politically charged, Nash takes to the studio to record his debut solo album, Songs For Beginners.

Assembled with the assistance of a slew of members of the crescendoing Laurel Canyon music community, Songs For Beginners succinctly captures the trifecta of traits that have defined Nash’s songwriting: gut-punches of raw emotion, crafted with a pop sensibility in mind, and full of rallying cries for social and political activism. Nash openly and unabashedly shares his most personal feelings, whether they are intimate depictions of heartbreak or outraged shouts, in a manner that will influence folk-rock and indie singer-songwriters for generations to come.

In this episode, we examine Graham Nash’s powerful lyrics and their lasting impression on society, discuss the wealth of music released during the Laurel Canyon era and the importance of creative incubator communities, and get deep into our feels about the relationship between Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell that fueled this album.

Listen to Songs For Beginners: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(and hey, while you’re at it, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be pod friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • See our further watching section for a great short doc of Graham Nash’s history with the Hollies.
  • We love the music of Laurel Canyon. Here’s a playlist.
  • We long for the days of creative incubator communities. Here are some great articles about the Laurel Canyon scene, New York’s punk/post-punk/new wave scene, the Omaha indie rock movement, and the Market Hotel scene in Brooklyn worth checking out if you feel the same way.
  • SO. MANY. PEOPLE. play on this album. Check out the personnel list below. It’s stacked.
  • Pop music doesn’t have to be meaningless, algorithm-pleasing, saccharine drivel. Pass it on.
  • We are going to talk so much about Joni Mitchell and feelings on this episode, so get ready.
    • Here’s something tiny and lovely about Joni and Graham that will make your heart swell.
    • Blue is Joni’s own breakup album, and it heavily features her relationship with Graham. It is one of the most perfect, heartbreaking, profound albums ever. (Sorry if you disagree, but also, if you do, who are you and has your heart been replaced with a cold battery?)
  • A short history of Jerry Garcia just randomly deciding to play pedal steel guitar.
  • David Crosby and Graham Nash both dated Joni Mitchell and remained good friends. They are not friends now. We don’t have nearly enough time to cover their petty drama right now, but the headline on this article about the current state of their relationship is quite entertaining.
  • Here’s a definition of what the “silent majority” is, in case you weren’t alive for Nixon’s presidency or just didn’t pay attention in history class.
  • This is exactly how we feel when we listen to “Simple Man.”
    • Also, this.
    • “If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.” It’s fine. We’re fine.
    • Graham Nash is a grown man who unapologetically displays all of his feelings and we love him so much for that.
    • Will never be over this photo of Joni and Graham, truly.
    • See the further watching links below for a fantastic interview with Graham from the Library of Congress. His anecdotes on love at first sight are around 45:20.
    • Obviously, they’d never work out, because Joni is the “Cactus Tree.”
    • Okay, pause us for a minute to feel your feelings before the next song. We’ll be here when you get back.
  • Let’s talk about “Chicago.”
    • Here’s a summary of the Chicago Eight (later reduced to seven) trials.
    • This core theme — we must stand up for what is right and fight this systematic injustice — is still so unsettlingly relevant. Can we pause and think about that for a second?
    • Read Graham’s thoughts about that changed “rules and regulations, who needs them?” lyric.
    • Go see Graham Nash live, if you can. “Chicago” is still a showstopper.
  • Graham Nash’s influence on artists can be seen anywhere from M. Ward to Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver (watch this live cover of “Simple Man” if you want to feel feelings) and is vast. See 2010’s Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners to see just how sweeping.
  • Graham Nash is still “shooting his mouth off” through art, whether it’s touring, recording new albums (his most recent, This Path Tonight, is quite good), painting, or photography. His philosophy is one we are behind 100 percent and one of the reasons why we have a great deal of respect for him: “This is what I do with my life. I get up in the morning and create. What an incredible life I get to lead. [….] I just want to make sure that, with every second I have left of my life, I need to be creating.”
  • As always, hit us up with your thoughts on today’s episode or just to say hey. Like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or drop us an email.

Favorite track(s): Simple Man and Better Days (Carly) | Chicago (Carrie)
Least favorite track: There’s Only One (Carly) | There’s Only One (Carrie)

Album credits:
Graham Nash — vocals; guitar all tracks except “Better Days” and “Simple Man”; piano on “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; organ on “Better Days,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; paper and comb on “Sleep Song”; tambourine on “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Rita Coolidge — piano on “Be Yourself” and “There’s Only One”; electric piano on “Be Yourself”; backing vocals on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Jerry Garcia — pedal steel guitar on “I Used to Be a King” and “Man in the Mirror”; piano on “I Used to Be a King”
Joe Yankee — piano on “Better Days” and “Man in the Mirror”
Dorian Rudnytsky — cello on “Simple Man” and “Sleep Song”
Dave Mason — electric guitar on “Military Madness”
David Crosby — electric guitar on “I Used to Be a King”
Joel Bernstein — piano on “Military Madness”
Bobby Keys — saxophone on “There’s Only One”
David Lindley — fiddle on “Simple Man”
Sermon Posthumas — bass clarinet on “Better Days”
Chris Ethridge — bass on “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels — bass on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” and “Be Yourself”
Phil Lesh — bass on “I Used to Be a King”
Johnny Barbata — drums on “Military Madness,” “I Used to Be a King,” “Be Yourself,” “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; tambourine on “Chicago”
Dallas Taylor — drums on “Better Days”
P.P. Arnold — backing vocals on “Military Madness”
Venetta Fields, Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Dorothy Morrison — backing vocals on “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”

Production personnel:
Graham Nash — producer
Bill Halverson, Russ Gary, Larry Cox — recording engineers
Doug Sax — mastering
Gary Burden — art direction
Joel Bernstein, Graham Nash — photography

Further watching:
Graham Nash: “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life” | 2014
Hotel California: LA From the Byrds to the Eagles | 2007
The Hollies: Graham Nash | Documentary date unknown

Further reading:
Graham Nash Talks Life After Divorce, CSNY’s Future | Rolling Stone (August 2016)
Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life | Graham Nash’s memoir (2014)